Being a single woman is not as rare as you might think. Neither is it an unhappy experience.
“People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.”
~ Kim Culbertson
Some months ago, I was visiting the Kolkata Book Fair. It was late winter, the afternoon weather balmy. I was wandering among book stalls, all alone.
A peddler was selling coffee and cold drinks, sitting under a huge colourful umbrella. Sipping a cup of coffee feels good in winter afternoons, so I bought one cup of coffee.
Bags filled with newly bought books were balanced precariously in both my hands. I somehow managed to take the coffee from the vendor and handed him the note. Then I found a place to sit nearby.
I placed the bags by my side and began sipping the warm cup of coffee. Now I started to notice the people visiting the book fair.
Unlike me, most of them had companions – college sweethearts who had probably bunked classes to enjoy an afternoon together, middle-aged married couples walking side by side, or a clutch of buddies – everybody seemed to be in the company of others.
Though on closer inspection, a few single souls like me could also be found, their numbers were few and far between. What was surprising, and somewhat comforting too, was the fact that I enjoyed my lone trip to the Book Fair very much.
I earn enough to afford to buy any number of books I want. So I ended up buying quite a few books. Singlehood, after all, is not as bad as people think. I was married once and I know the other side of the story very well.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
~ Carl Jung
The institution of marriage is overrated, at least in our country. This is especially true in the case of us women. Women generally do not choose their partners. It’s usually the menfolk who carefully scrutinise the prospective brides, just as people scrutinise a commodity before buying it.
During this process of scrutinisation, all factors like the bride’s age (whether within the range of bearing a child or not), complexion (fair complexion is always a priority), length of hair, family background, caste, community, educational qualification (educated women can take better care of future children’s studies), are considered.
The irony is that in spite of the institution of marriage being patriarchal and highly biased, it is accorded highest priority by women. Women make it a goal of life to get a suitable husband, which in turn helps to keep a redundant institution like marriage relevant, even in this age of woman empowerment.
True, human beings are social animals and we seek the company of another person in our journey of life. But does the mere presence of another person in life eliminate the possibility of loneliness in life? Probably, NO.
As Robin Williams said, “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”
“And when nobody wakes you up in the morning, and when nobody waits for you at night, and when you can do whatever you want. What do you call it, Freedom or Loneliness?”
~ Charles Bukowski
Having experienced a toxic marriage, I am enjoying my new found singlehood very much these days. Imagine living a life where you don’t have anybody to dictate terms or you don’t have people in your life with whom you are required to adjust forcibly.
How will you feel? Liberated, independent, free… isn’t it? I too felt the same.
But all is not hunky-dory about singlehood. Our pet dog died recently. Ever since that incident, my mother is saying that her time is also nearing. And that I need to think about my future now.
I got very scared. Death is inevitable. We all know that. But we don’t want to think about that possibility. How will I manage to survive once both my parents are no more? What if I suddenly fall ill?
I get panicky whenever I think about a future where I don’t have anybody to stand by me and I am left all alone to face life. I am financially stable and working, but what about the emotional support?
These thoughts led me to think seriously about chalking out a plan of action for future. I googled a lot and realised that I was not alone. The 2011 census data shows that 15 million elderly Indians live alone. Almost three-fourths of them are women.
According to this report, the elderly population in India is expected to reach 300 million in 2050, accounting for 18% of the total population in 2050.
I also came to know about the still-nascent-idea of community living for senior single citizens.
Nishi Malhotra, a former consultant editor with the World Bank in Washington DC, started a group for single people aged 50-60 on Facebook in 2017. It is called the JOY community (Just Older Youth).
It is for singles who want to live and grow old together in a community so that they can be of support to each other as they age and can move into the same neighbourhood once they retire.
According to this report, those individuals, who are connecting online via Facebook, Whatsapp groups and offline through monthly meetups for coffee, plays or gatherings etc. are exploring several options.
These range from mushrooming community retirement complexes in the country to layouts like studio apartments, single BHK, villas cottages or condos.
A lot of retirement communities are also coming up across the country. Elderly single women, whether unmarried, widowed or divorced, are the prized investors in these communities.
These retirement communities offer healthcare, security, comfort and companionship all under one roof.
Last but not the least, if you haven’t found the love of your life in your youth, the possibility of finding love remains in your autumn years too.
I recently read about Happy Seniors, a Pune-based matchmaking agency, which has connected a lot of live-in couples. These stories of finding love again at an age when companionship is needed the most, are really heart-warming.
Let’s strive to make singlehood less fearsome and more of a liberating life choice. Cheers to singlehood!
Featured Image Source: Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels
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An engineer by education, I am a civil servant by profession. A doting mother. An
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